Tories to warn against rivals’ ‘reckless plans’ for North Sea oil and gas

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross spoke out on the issue ahead of a debate in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.

Tories will use a Holyrood debate to highlight their support for the North Sea oil and gas sector
Tories will use a Holyrood debate to highlight their support for the North Sea oil and gas sector (Andy Buchanan/PA)

Tories have claimed “reckless plans” from both Labour and the SNP on oil and gas development mean the “entire economy” in the north-east of Scotland is “on the line” in the General Election.

Party leader Douglas Ross raised fears that both parties plan to halt new oil and gas developments, saying this would “turn off the taps in the North Sea”.

He spoke out ahead of a debate on the energy sector that the Tories will lead in Holyrood on Wednesday.

It comes amid speculation Scotland’s First Minister John Swinney could move away from the presumption against new developments in the North Sea – which was the policy of predecessors Nicola Sturgeon and Humza Yousaf – to one more focused on a “managed transition”.

However, the Scottish Government’s new energy strategy will not now be published before the General Election on July 4.

Labour, meanwhile, has insisted it will not be “turning off the taps” if it is elected into government.

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, speaking on a visit to Scotland last week, said: “We are not turning off the taps, oil and gas will be part of the mix for many years. We’re not revoking any licences.”

However, he said a “transition is coming” with a switch to renewables, adding: “There’s a massive prize here – lower bills, security, the next generation of jobs, so clean power is the best opportunity we’ve had in a generation.”

Mr Ross, however, insisted it would be “economic and environmental lunacy to turn away from oil and gas”.

He will use the Holyrood debate to highlight his party’s support for the oil and gas sector, with the Scottish Conservative leader claiming: “The entire economy of north-east Scotland is on the line at this election because of the reckless plans of Labour and the SNP to turn off the taps in the North Sea.

“It is economic and environmental lunacy to turn away from oil and gas, as Labour, the SNP, Greens and Lib Dems are intent on doing, because it would see tens of thousands of skilled jobs lost and force us to import more expensive fossil fuels with a greater carbon footprint.

“Only the Scottish Conservatives are standing up for the oil and gas sector – to both protect the north-east communities that rely on it and to safeguard our energy security.”

Mr Ross added: “Everyone wants a just transition to net zero, but currently there are not enough renewables on stream to meet our energy needs. That’s why we will continue to need oil and gas for decades to come.

“The Scottish Conservatives will use this debate to hammer home the importance of the oil and gas sector, and urge the other parties to see sense and reverse their disastrous energy policies.”

Shadow Scotland secretary Ian Murray said it took a “brass neck” for Mr Ross “to lecture anyone on either the economy or the environment”.

He said: “The Tories have caused economic turmoil for millions of Scots and ripped up their climate pledges.

“Our two dysfunctional governments have no plan to protect jobs in the north-east, but oil and gas workers are at the heart of Labour’s plans.

“Under Labour’s plans, oil and gas will remain part of our energy system for decades to come and the next generation of energy jobs will come to Scotland.

“Only Labour has a plan to deliver lower bills, green jobs, energy security, climate leadership and a publicly-owned GB energy company based here in Scotland.”

SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn said: “There are three options on the table for voters – a Labour Party who pose an immediate risk to 100,000 jobs, a Tory Party who pose an immediate risk to delivering net zero, or the SNP, who will put Scotland first by protecting the oil and gas workforce we have today in order to develop the net zero jobs and economy of tomorrow.

“We need the economy of the north-east to thrive for decades to come and that only happens if we utilise the skills and wealth of talent within the oil and gas sector to power and develop our huge renewables potential.

“If we don’t get the transition right and bury our heads in the sand like the Tories and the Labour Party, then we will lose out on investment to other countries across the globe – that would be a betrayal of Scotland’s energy potential.”